How to Burn Down a Forest, or a Boat, with a Can of Cat Food

Funny story . . .

I don’t really find it fun or entertaining or even remotely satisfying to plan an adventure and just go out and “purchase” everything I require.

Does any real adventure ever rest on a firm and stable financial foundation?  I think not.  Sure, “trips” do.  But, a true and honest adventure is partly about risk.  Otherwise it wouldn’t be an adventure.

Since I really don’t have the financial means or desire to go out and drop buckets of very hard earned cash on stuff, I tend to find areas where I can make my own gear and equipment or eliminate it altogether.

As with everything I do, I desire simplicity of design which yields elegance in function and reliability, and little or zero maintenance.  There of course is the analysis that goes into the whole equation of how much time will it take to make, do I have the skills and equipment necessary, how will it work, and, finally, the cost in USD.

With all that said, one of those areas where I could either make or eliminate my gear was with a camp stove.  Those “ultralight” stoves cost $50 to $100 and you have to buy the special gas canisters to use them.  Unless I MUST have one (and in some areas, a stove with an ON/OFF valve is required) I would rather not spend the money.

Elimination of the stove would mean eating cold food pretty much all the time.  Campfires are rarely allowed, I have to presume.  I would like some hot coffee and a hot meal every now and then, so, elimination was going to be a last resort.

Hello Internet my old friend.  I love the Internet.  Not because of cat videos.  I don’t really use it for that.  I love it for the absolute wealth of information that is available literally at my fingertips.  Remember the days when you were ULTRAEXTREMELYSUPER lucky if your parents bought you a set of World Book Encyclopedias.  Or . . . OR . . . Encyclopedia Britannica!!  OH the luxury!

I wasn’t that lucky.  Those things were expensive.  I got a go-cart and trampoline.  Talk about risky.  But, I digress.

I began looking up alcohol stoves.  There are a lot of designs.  Some people have even set up “cottage” shops making them for a very reasonable sum.

The least expensive and most simple design is the SuperCat Stove.  This thing is stupid cheap, stupid easy to make, and it’s pretty stupid simple to cause major problems if you are stupid.

Enter me.

The general overview of the stove manufacture is as follows.  Purchase a 50 cent can of Fancy Fest cat food.  Empty the contents of said can and clean.  (Hey, a hungry hiker sometimes has to do what a hungry hiker has to do.  But, our cat REFUSES to eat the stuff.)  Punch some holes in prescribed locations around the can.  And VOILÀ.  An alcohol stove.

It accepts approximately an ounce of denatured alcohol and will burn for around 6 to 7 minutes.

I made one.


I wanted to test it out.  The only real good place, I figured was on the companionway steps.

I wasn’t sure how hot the stove would get, but I didn’t want to have it get too hot and then leave a scorch mark on the steps.  Safety first, you know.

Enter the trivet.

So, I filled the little stove up and set it alight.

To describe how it works, it is essentially a pressurized stove.  “But, it’s completely open on top,” you say.  Yes, your pot or pan or cup acts as the lid, seals the top, and allows the stove to pressurize.  You have to light it and first wait for the stove to “prime”, which is essentially allow the alcohol to get hot enough to begin boiling.  At that point, you can place your cookware on top.

I haven’t yet purchased a ridiculously expensive 0.005 oz (0.14 g) titanadamantvibranium cookpot yet.  I used a metal cup that we had on the boat which I filled with about 8 ounces of water.

This wasn’t the actual cup that I used.  I think Jodi hid it from me thinking I wouldn’t be able to “use” the Supercat anymore.  HA!  I could use this little stainless bowl if I had to.

Everything was going along just fine.  The SuperCat was heating the water up nice.  I was smiling.

Ever heard that saying, “The enemy of good is better”?  Well, I thought, maybe I can situate the cup a little better to get a better seal and see if it heats a little better.  Of course, metal gets pretty hot when subjected to an open flame.  I knew this.  I got a pot holder and was going to NOT catch it on fire from the open flame while deftly rearranging the cup to sit . . . better.

Stupid, stupid idea.  I knew this before I even started.  The alarm bells were going off.

Subconscious:  “Wesly, this is a idiotic.  You’re going to catch that fabric pot holder on fire and/or knock the scalding cup of water off the SuperCat and/or knock the ignited alcohol all over the place and/or ALL of the above and more!!  Jodi’s going to get mad!  STOP right now!  It’s working fine!”

Wesly:  “See here, Subby!  I’m running this show.  You shut it.  I’ve got this.  I’m going to be careful.  I just need to see if I can make it heat better.  This is science.”

Subconscious:  “Sigh . . .”

And I proceeded.

Point of fact:  I did NOT catch the pot holder on fire.

What happened is I ALMOST caught the pot holder on fire.  In my rush to prevent that from happening I knocked the cup tipsy and ALMOST spilled the hot water.  In my attempt to right the cup I ALMOST again caught the pot holder on fire.  I finally decided to just give up on the whole experiment.  I got the cup off the Supercat and was going to let it just burn it itself out.  But, at this point I wasn’t happy that it was sitting right in the middle of the companionway steps.  I had to move it.  You know, in case the dogs or cat decided to go in or out.  So, I carefully lifted the trivet to slide it over and WWHHOOOOSSHHH!!!!

Ignited alcohol spilled all over the cork trivet!

Holy flaming 5%!+ SuperCatgirl!!  I’m about to burn the boat down!!  Cork burns fast let me tell you.  You don’t want a cork floor in your house if you have plans of accidentally dropping something ignition hot on it.

I grabbed a dish rag and smothered the fire real fast.  There was no sound from Jodi.  Uh oh!  That’s not good.  I turned around with a smile to unspokenly say “Holy crap!  Did you see what I just ALMOST did,” and she had that look.  You guys know the one, “I knew it.  You stupid _____!  You ready to stop now?”

And there’s the end result.  Luckily, the steps were not harmed.

It doesn’t look all that bad.

But, let some invisible flaming alcohol jump out of a SuperCat stove and then watch black carbon develop in areas where you can’t even see flame and let me tell you, it looks pretty bad.

These SuperCat things really need a warning label on them.  I can now see why they aren’t allowed in dry forests and parks.  They aren’t the problem.  Stupid is the problem.

I haven't bathed or showered in months
Choosing a Backpack

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